Favourite actor meme: Boris Karloff & Bela Lugosi [1/3 co-stars]
When talking about Boris Karloff is it almost inevitable that his equally iconic and frequent co-star Bela Lugosi will be mentioned. The two actors could not be more different; one a mild-mannered Englishman, the other a mildly histrionic, heavy accented Hungarian. Yet few other pairings, especially between two dramatic male actors, have achieved quite the same perfect chemistry as Karloff and Lugosi. Even when torturing each other and murdering each other in the most horrible ways, it’s hard to imagine two people who fit so naturally together; beneath the hatred there is the sense that both actors revel in the contrast with the other. The idea to combine the two was purely mercenary; Universal had big success with Dracula and Frankenstein, and further success with Karloff in The Mummy, so combining their two leading horror men seemed a guarantee for future box office gold. What followed was a series of 3 major collaborations: The Black Cat, The Raven and The Invisible Ray. Black Friday would have been a fourth: however a last minute change meant Lugosi’s role was diminished and he shares no screen time with Karloff. However even outside Universal the two could not escape each other; along with Peter Lorre they were reunited in Colombia’s You’ll Find Out and finally in Val Lewton’s The Body Snatcher. In many ways this final collaboration can be seen as a poignant demonstration of their similar but separate paths; Karloff, no longer in A movies, but a lead nonetheless, while Lugosi, appearing in increasingly dire productions, barely a secondary character.
As for their personal relationship, their alleged feud is perhaps more famous than their on-screen collaborations. Whatever the actual thoughts of either actor, however, neither said a word against the other throughout their entire public lives. It is true that they were not best friends yet any other co-stars described their behaviour towards one another as amicable and respectful. One thing that cannot be denied is both actors’ incredible dedication and professionalism; which undoubtedly made their partnership even more fulfilling.